In the past, when I was moved enough to write about rosé, I tried to do it in, like, April or May, in what I figured was plenty of time to let everybody run out and stock up. That proved to be over-thinking on my part, as many of the bottles I recommended had not yet been ordered by radical conservative wine shop geeks who were thinking “Wait ’til it warms up…Wait ’til it warms up…” The flaw in that thinking is A) sometimes, here in and around Sea-patch, it doesn’t warm up, and B) the rest of America is usually sweltering before I even stop wearing hoodies.
I’ve attempted two things, here: better timing – as in “run right out NOW, this second, and buy these puppies before they’re gone!‘ – and B) naming wines that you might actually have a chance of finding. I’ve passed on miraculous stuff like Analemma and Bedrock and Limerick Lane and Kokomo because I never even see it here in the PNW, so what are the chances you’re seeing it in Minonk or Kernersville or Summerfield or Huntsville?
These, as with nearly everything else recommended here in The Pour Fool, are here because they are fabulous values, aside from being fabulous juice. You’re not going to read reviews of $50 rosé, here, because one of the primary virtues of rosé wines is that they’re usually inexpensive, so that Average Joes like us can drink and enjoy ’em. Here, then, are a gaggle o’ Pinks that I think will absolutely light up your taste buds, flatter your foods, make your friends think you’re SO freakin’ Cool, and – maybe, if the stars align just right – they might just disabuse you of that idiotic, antiquated, snot-soaked conviction that somehow rosé is not “serious wine” and is served only at the peril of your oenological cred. Rosé wines have a long, proud history and are crafted with obsessive care by most of the world’s most respected winemakers. Try these. See what YOU think. And, if you agree with me, do this for our communal well-being: the next time you hear some drooooning wine snot pontificating ad nauseum about why “rosé is cute ‘n’ all but it’s ONLY for fun”, roll up a large-format, heavy-gauge magazine like Wine Enthusiast or Wine Spectator and smite them sharply right across the bridge of their nose. And then take away their glass. You will have my eternal gratitude…
Let’s get real about this: THE heavyweight, affordable, all-purpose champion rosé in America today – in my opinion and that of a LOT of other wine snots – is Renegade Wine C0mpany Rosé. Made by rock-star winemaker, Trey Busch, (whose front-line stuff from Sleight of Hand Cellars makes wine geeks all over America walk funny and drool) this little psycho-killer of a pink just flat bombards the tongue with flavors and a very un-rosé-like intensity. I actually poured this in a metal, insulated cup from DrinkTanks, so that the color wasn’t visible, and then asked three geeky pals to tell me if they were drinking a red, a white, or a rosé. All three said red. This is like Pink Wine Porn in a glass. It’s gorgeous to look at, for starters, and then paints your palate with red and black berries, rhubarb, spices both Mediterranean and baking, dried cranberries, plums, and something in the background like blood orange peel. It costs – hang onto somethin’! – around TEN BUCKS! This may well be one of the two or three most over-delivering wines on any shelf, anywhere, and Trey has been hauling his irritatingly skinny, Pearl Jam Fan-boy ass all over the East Coast, ladling out the Georgia-via-Walla Walla soul while placing and pouring these Renegades and the Sleight of Hands, so conscientiously for about the past three years, that you probably stand a pretty good chance of finding it near you. If this wine isn’t “serious” enough for desiccated wine geeks, check their pulses, because they probably died and nobody told ’em. 95 Points
As I sit writing this, my glass, on the porch floor next to me, contains a gorgeous little non-spendy pink from Domain Paul Mas, where owner/winemaker Jean-Claude Mas embraces a very atypically un-prissy aesthetic for a Frenchie type: grapes from anywhere he damned well pleases. Down there in the sun-drenched Languedoc, JC has planted him some Bordeaux varietals, right alongside his Rhone stuff. (His neighbors probably have plans to lynch him, any day now) They are not in this wine but ya can’t put it past him to try it, in some future vintage, and then all hell will break loose and President Sanders will probably have to send in “peacekeepers”. Using his second label, Coté Mas, Jean-Claude has spared no expense in crafting this thoughtful, bangin’ flavorful, seductive little bottle called Cote Mas “Rosé Aurore” Sud de France, a crafty blend of Cinsault(!), Syrah, and Grenache Noir, (he had me at “Cinsault”) that shows red currants, raspberries, strawberry jam, tangerine, wildflowers, lemon curd, dried cranberries, melon, and guava, with a firm underpinning of minerals and faint saline and a finish suggestive of pink grapefruit. 90% of the time, If I am asked to bring a Rosé to a dinner, it will probably be either from Washington (because I’m a f**king homer) or from either Provence, Languedoc, or Roussillon. No disrespect meant to the Rosé stongholds of Lyrac and Tavel but I prefer the spice quotient a bit higher and the fruit shoved right in my face, without any more sweetness than you’d get from any French pink. This Mas, like its farm-boy cousin from Renegade, is bone dry, endlessly crisp, beautifully balanced, and bustin’ with fruit like a swoll-up tick. I could finish this whole bottle…and probably will. 93 Points
“Pink wine from ISRAEL?!?” “Oh, buy a vowel, Roger”…This was the actual conversation I had with a wine pal when I wrote him about this lovely Sangiovese/Pinot Noir/Grenache blend from the Upper Galilee appellation in By-God Israel. I’ve been a fan of Israeli – and, in fact, several other Middle Eastern countries’ – wines for over a decade and this gorgeous pink from Galil Mountain Winery, while coming as a wonderful shock, is no surprise at all. To be brutally honest, the one thing I used to find lacking in Middle Eastern wines was authenticity of the varietals. That is all Old News, now. This Sangiovese that leads off this inspired blend is eaten up with varietal virtues: raspberries by the fistful, rhubarb, red plums, anise, fennel, orange zest, and a subtle spiciness; all this augmented by a firm jolt of the Pinot’s cranberry, salmonberry, and herbs. The 3% Grenache lends it just a dash of spices that flatter the profile without taking over. For years, all the wine we saw from Israel was Yarden and Golan Heights and a tiny smattering of small producers. Galil Mountain is one to watch and this Rosé is a near-perfect introduction. 93 Points
There will not be a pink wine post in this blog without a Tempranillo version and the only question, each year, is who is going to make it. Hacienda de Arínzano is one of Spain’s true prestige estates. Spain’s highest wine designation is “Pago” and it is given to individual producers, not to appellations, as with the French “Cru” system. A winery has to go through a ten-year review process to be called a “pago” and it happens only rarely. Arínzano is the first estate in Northern Spain to earn that designation. The property is over one thousand years old. The first vines on what is now the Arínzano estate were planted in the eleventh century A.D. by Sancho de Fortuñones, a nobleman with a taste for the grape. This 100% Tempranillo Hacienda de Arínzano Rose 2015 blush gem is dry, crisp, prettily acidic, and one of the best food wines I have ever tasted. It has plenty of muscle to square off with a roast pork or a grilled flat-iron steak, if you’re feeling carnivorous, and enough delicacy to lay back under your seafood green salad or a chicken-turkey Panini, too. Taken alone, just as a sipper, this is cooling, wildly refreshing, crisp as a cold Granny Smith apple, and exploding with hallmark Tempranillo flavors like Bing cherry, raspberry compote, stewed plums, strawberries, orange peel, mint, and jasmine. Just…beautiful. 94 Points
As I confessed in the Paul Mas review, the far south of France, past the lower end of the Rhone Valley appellations, is my rosé wheelhouse and as we get closer to the Mediterranean, the more my interest grows. Terre de Mistral “Pauline” 2015 is a pink that perfectly expresses the sort of bounteous blush-wine character that wineries farther north in France would find unseemly. Spices and fruit and minerals and bright acids and a purity that recalls fresh fruit picked off the vine more than that which has been through an involved mechanical process and a chemical transformation akin to alchemy distinguish this as a wine of Provence’s Mediterranée appellation, that growing area closest to the shores of the sea. What first makes this gorgeous, fresh 2015 Pauline stand out is its grape: Sangiovese. Sangio, of course, is an Italian grape, by birth, but it’s now become a globe-trotting immigrant, planted extensively in almost every other wine-producing nation. In the US, especially in Washington, Rosé of Sangiovese is very close to becoming a cliché, an excuse for Sangiovese vines that haven’t sufficiently matured to produce a fine red or just a knee-jerk reaction to a grape that routinely shows a lightness of character that reminds most people far more of Pinot Noir than any of the Bordeaux varietals. And, in fact, Sangiovese makes an absolutely stupid-good pink. The skins carry sufficient color to give the wine a bright, cherry-red cast and the flavors carry into its white juice state better than most other grapes. This Pauline shows Morello cherries, baking spices, strawberries, raspberries, anise, sumac, jasmine, a hint of saline, and that sweet, assertive mineral character that Provence wines show in spades. With an almost off-hand grace, this wine manages to make most US Sangiovese pinks seem kinda clumsy by comparison and would be right at home labeled as a Tuscan Rosato or a Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo. 94 Points
Seven Hills Winery is one of those veteran Northwest producers that wine trendies sometimes skip, figuring they’ve tasted it all before. BAD mistake. Seven Hills is also about relentless refinement, tweaking of existing taste profiles, and the sort of Messin’ With Success that distinguishes great producers of almost anything. Readers of this blog need no refresher about my love for Deschutes Brewery and they appeal to me for that exact same reason. Seven Hills maintains an almost impossible quality standard that’s bound by their own aesthetic principles and nothing else. I have to confess to having whiffed on 7H for a number of years, as I, too, thought I knew the story. This traffic-stopping bottle of pink, the Seven Hills Rosé 2015, is composed of primarily Cabernet Franc, another grape that has nearly become a pink wine reflex choice, here in Bordeaux West. Indeed, there have been a LOT of Cab Franc blushes made in the past 20 years and most of ’em were just, to quote our own Doug Baldwin, “ah-ight“. Seven Hills mines that weary idea in a very ingenious way: they’ve added in tiny amounts of two grapes that have become major success stories, here in WA State, Petit Verdot and Malbec. The PV contributes a subtle but definite structure to the wine, along with its hallmark flavors of plums and blueberries and a “grapy-ness” that almost everybody finds hard to describe. Coupled with that dash of Malbec, with its blackberries, black cherries, currants, and pipe tobacco, you find whispers of these lurking prettily beneath the Franc’s spices and red fruits. This, as American Rosé goes, is just about as good as it gets, on the side of the pink wine continuum that embraces its European roots. It’s dry as the tombs at Cheops, fresh, crisp, and, for all its careful planning and intricate assemblage, tastes as un-premeditated as any wine you’ll drink this year. You can do the geeky dissection of its elements or just sit back and enjoy. It is, dare I say it, elegant…and totally delicious. 95 Points
If I stumbled across a lamp in some abandoned lot, somewhere, and rubbed it and a genie popped out to offer me three wishes about wine, there’s a very good chance that one of them would be that mankind would immediately drop this brainless nonsense of thinking that sparkling wines are for Special Occasions Only. Folks, you do not need ANY occasion in order to crack open a bottle of sparkling wine and enjoy it. Beer has bubbles and you don’t hear about people shoving it to the back on the fridge for “just the right occasion”. “It’s Thursday!” is quite enough reason to drink a bottle o’ bubbly and these three stunning pinks make it affordable enough that even a cranky old skin-flint like me can afford to do it anytime I like. For a normal person like yourself, if beer doesn’t seem just right for tonight’s dinner or that Saturday picnic with family, latch onto a bubbly and make your own Occasion…
For the skinny on the dazzling value of Codorniu “Anna” Brut Rosé, I’m going to refer you to this link to a post I wrote in 2015, entitled “$cintillating Sparklers” in which I described the smashing Anna thusly: “Anna de Codorniu is a little miracle; a rosé that costs well under $20, delivers dazzling, fresh, authentic fruit, and – in an age when an increasing number of wineries are starting to sneak sugar back into pink wines in an effort to make them more appealing for all us American “soda pop drinkers” – gloriously dry, crisp, and beautifully balanced. This is one of the best rosé wines – still or sparkling – that I’ve tasted in years and is a testament to a number of things: Codorniu’s stunning estate vineyards in Lleda, DO Cava, where both the 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay are grown; meticulous viticulture, with all grapes used in this wine picked at night, to retain maximum freshness and avoid oxidation; no hurry-up winemaking, as the secondary fermentation is carried out in the bottle and the wine is kept there for a full year. The gorgeous pink in the glass comes from just four hours of skin contact with the Pinot grapes, and the flavors…well, WOW. This is classic rosé: strawberries so real and un-fiddled with that, as opposed to most pinks that require some imagination to detect any strawberries, the flavor is every bit as immediate as biting into a fresh, cold berry. Behind that are grace notes of raspberry, dried cranberry, teaberry gum, sweet spices, cherries, a little green apple, and a haunting woodsy character that recalls a walk in the forest after a rainstorm.”
As this is a non-vintage wine and is blended to profile, there’s not much to add to that, except that, in this new batch, there’s a subtle intimation of tobacco and anise on the finish that I found really appealing. I gave it the same score then and it could even legitimately score a point higher. 94 Points
The wine that appeared in that 2015 post with the Anna was the regular Brut from a superb Italian bubbly producer with a name you already know: Ferrari. Yes, they also make wine, although I believe that the two wings of the family are so distantly related as to make it academic but the skill level at the Trento winery is no less evolved than at the auto factory, about eighty miles to the south. This eye-opening pink, Ferrari Rosé, from this legendary estate, is a 60/40 blend of Pinot Nero (Noir) and Chardonnay, the same approximate blend that we find in the Codorniu “Anna”. Leading with the spicier, more assertive Pinot Noir in a blush wine is a great strategy, as wines made from predominantly Chardonnay tend to be a bit less complex and this beauty ladles out the Asian spices, yellow apples, red currants, apricots, rhubarb, strawberries, and stone notes by the handful. It’s absolutely, spotlessly clean and crisp and looks so inviting in the glass that, whenever I pour it, it’s gone within minutes, if there are any more than two of us drinking. This is the most polished and least rustic of any of the wines here and, just in case you were to run into an actual Occasion, the package, the wine, the sheer elegant perfection of this stuff makes it a perfect choice…as does the price: about $28 94 Points
Our last pink is a new product that comes from a name – Ruffino – that is so well-known in the US that many, many of us may have tasted the wines years ago and pretty much stopped paying any attention to the brand at all, except for their classic Chianti, Riserva Ducale Oro, or their Toscana IGT wines like Alauda and Modus. For this sparkling rose, Ruffino did a very crafty thing in two senses: they made the balance of this wine from the Glera grape, the main varietal in all Prosecco, by far America’s biggest Italian wine crush of the past ten years and the best selling sparkling wines in the world that don’t come from Champagne. Glera is enormously friendly and crowd-pleasing, with its soft, pillowy tree fruit, citrus, and floral character, but…it’s relentlessly white. No blush possible with Glera/Proseco, so what’s a paisan to do? Easy: take some of the Glera region’s native Pinot Nero and blend, baby, blend. Made by the Charmat method (wine fermented in pressurized tanks, for upwards of a month, before bottling under pressure), Ruffino Rosé Sparkling Wine tastes as young as it is and, believe me, you don’t want it any more aged than this. For aromatic varietals like Glera and Pinot Noir, Charmat works beautifully because it retains the freshness of the fruit better than the traditional fermented-in-bottle Champagne method. It is instantly recognizable to Prosecco geeks as their Main Squeeze but also shows the spices, red berries, Red Vines, and brambly earthiness of the Pinot, along with a spell-binding aroma and flavor of rose petals(!). The overall effect is absolutely delightful. This is one of the most relentlessly sippable sparkling pinks I’ve found yet. It compels your next sip and, at just 11% ABV, it’s possible to enjoy a couple of generous glasses without winding up on your face. At just $14 retail, this is a crazy-fine bubbly with familiar flavors, beautiful winemaking skills, near-perfect balance, and crisp, food-friendly acidity. As wine values go, especially in Rose, you’ll be hard pressed to do better at this price, for any bottle of bubbles. 93 Points